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Production Report: “Anamorph,” “Jumping Off Bridges,” “My Suicide,” “In The Evening,” “U.S. vs. John

Production Report: "Anamorph," "Jumping Off Bridges," "My Suicide," "In The Evening," "U.S. vs. John

[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE’s monthly production report looks at independent films in various stages of production. If you’d like to tell us about a film in production for future columns, please contact us.]

In the March edition of indieWIRE’s production column, Jason Guerrasio takes a closer look at five new films that are in production: Henry Miller’s “Anamorph”, Kat Candler’s “Jumping Off Bridges”, David Lee Miller’s “My Suicide”, Andrew Wagner’s “Starting Out In The Evening” and David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s “The U.S. vs. John Lennon.”

Anamorph

Five years have passed since Detective Stan Aubray (Willem Dafoe) put away the killer known as “Uncle Eddie,” who left his victims positioned in tableau-like art installations. Recently a string of murders with a familiar artistic twist have been popping up around New York City forcing Stan to recall the hunt for Uncle Eddie and question if he put away the right guy.

After receiving little interest from production companies in Hollywood, director Henry Miller (“Late Watch“), along with producer Marissa McMahon, decided to make their murder mystery set around the premise of anamorphous themselves and attached such names as Defoe, Peter Stormare (“Fargo“), Clea DuVall (“21 Grams“) and Scott Speedman (“Underworld: Evolution“) to star.

Always fascinated by art, Miller co-wrote the script with Tom Phelan two-and-a-half years ago during his time as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. “I had a lot of time around a lot of paintings,” he recalls. “It helped me think about the history of art and hidden meanings.”

He also got a lot of help from Dafoe, who met with Miller bi-weekly for three months before production began to get the script right. “We’d meet and he’d say, ‘I don’t know Henry, we’re getting close,’ and then I’d have to do it again,” says Miller from the set. “I’ve learned a lot from him, he’s been like a teacher basically.”

Principal photography recently wrapped at Silvercup Studios in Queens. Produced by McMahon’s Kamala Films, the film was shot on 35 mm by Fred Murphy (“Auto Focus“) and edited by Geraud Brisson.

Jumping Off Bridges

Premiering at this month’s South By Southwest Film Festival, writer-director Kat Candler looks back on her teenage years to create a coming-of-age-story.

Living a carefree life, Zack (Bryan Chafin) and his three friends get their kicks jumping off bridges and causing trouble, but when his mother commits suicide, life’s harsh realities come crashing down on all of them.

Candler wrote the script in 2001 shortly after her first feature, “Cicadas,” ended its festival run. Loosely based on the small adventures she and her friends embarked on, Candler says the film, set in Austin, Texas, made her recall a simpler time in her life. “They were very magical times growing up 16, 17 and being stupid and having crushes,” she says. “So this was an opportunity for me to relive those experiences.” Unfortunately financing for the film was hard to come by and after a few failed attempts, Candler and her crew made one last ditch effort to make the film this past summer. “Every time we came up to a hurdle I was like, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to be on set, if you guys don’t show up we’re still going forward,'” she recalls.

Her never-give-up attitude caught on with the rest of the crew who spent last summer juggling their day jobs to make the 6-week shoot possible. But there was one thing Candler couldn’t do herself. Wanting to set one of the bridge jumps on Phluger Bridge into Town Lake, Candler learned it’s illegal to jump into the lake without a city permit. Fortunately Austin’s Mayor, Will Wynn, waived the city fee and even showed his support by jumping off the bridge.

Produced by Candler, Lorie Marsh and Stacy Schoolfield, the film was shot on Super 16mm by Jim Eastburn and edited by Nevie Owens. Executive producers are Deena Kalai and Michael McCoy.

[For more information, please visit their Web site.]

A scene from David Lee Miller’s “My Suicide.” Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.

My Suicide

Director David Lee Miller hopes to bring attention to teen suicide with a film that speaks to today’s youth because it’s by them.

This dark comedy follows Archie (Gabriel Sunday), an unpopular junior in high school who announces in his video production class he will commit suicide on camera for his final class project. After a mandatory 72-hour mental evaluation, Archie returns to school to learn he’s become popular. He’s approached by Sierra (Brooke Nevin), the school president and editor of the school newspaper who wants to do a story on him, but Archie soon learns Sierra also has an interest in suicide.

“The movie really came out of the hearts and minds of these youths,” says Miller speaking of the kids who make up his non-profit organization Regenerate, which encourages youth to address social issues through media-making. Co-founding the youth group in 2002, Regenerate shorts have gained notoriety at numerous festivals, including Sundance. The success brought on the idea to make a feature film that brings awareness about youth suicide, which next to car crashes is the leading cause of youth deaths. But Miller, who co-wrote the script with Regenerate mentor Eric J. Adams, admits they’re not making an after school special. “We’re definitely going to be rated R because we’re speaking authentically to kids,” Miller says. “We can’t pull punches [because] every single kid has either thought about [suicide], tried it, or knows somebody [who did it].”

Other non-profits like The Boys and Girls Club, School of the Pacific Islands Foundation and Nick Traina Foundation have come onboard to help finance the film (all profits will go back into the organizations), and stars Mariel Hemingway, Nora Dunn, Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”) Joe Mantegna, Harry Shearer and David Carradine.

Production wrapped in January in Thousand Oaks, California, and Miller hopes to be complete with post by the spring. Produced by Miller, Adams and Todd Traina, it was shot on DV by Lisa Wiegand and edited by Tony Randel. Executive producers are Larry Janss and Steven Jay Rubin.

[For more information, please visit their Web site.]

Starting Out In The Evening

Based on Brian Morton’s novel, Frank Langella (“Good Night, and Good Luck“) plays Leonard Schiller, an aging writer who’s work is the focus of an ambitious grad student’s (Lauren Ambrose, “Six Feet Under”) master thesis. Through their interviews a bond is formed that causes unexpected consequences and affects Schiller’s relationship with his daughter, Ariel (Lily Taylor).

Making Morton’s book into a film has always been a dream project for director Andrew Wagner, and an opportunity came two years ago when InDigEnt’s Gary Winick saw a cut of Wagner’s “The Talent Given Us.” “He turned to me and said lets go make a film,” says Wagner who quickly called friend Fred Parnes, who had the book rights, to co-write it with him. “We thought we’d adapt it in three months, two years later we were still scrapping away on the last scenes.”

Adapting the book wasn’t the only challenge. With only a $500,000 budget Wagner knew the acting had to be spot-on for it to work. “The film has benefited greatly by the great quantity of rehearsals that all the actors gave, in fact insisted upon,” says Wagner from the set, which wrapped recently. “Langella and I spent countless hours over three months exploring his character, and we needed every one of those hours, including the day before we shot the film. And when we started shooting Leonard Schiller walked in the door and Frank Langella was nowhere to be found.”

Shot around New York’s Upper West Side on HD by Harlan Bosmajian, the film’s producers are Douglas Harmon and InDigEnt’s Winick, Jake Abraham and Nancy Israel. Executive Producer is John Sloss.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

Starting in the late 1960s, John Lennon stripped away his pop-star image to transform into an anti-war activist. This change brought on his famous bed-ins with wife Yoko Ono in protest of the Vietnam War and the song “Give Peace a Chance.” Though this period in Lennon’s life would forever cement his iconic legacy, the U.S. Government wasn’t too happy with Lennon’s newfound persona and tried every effort to silence him. This in-depth documentary by filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld chronicles a chapter in Lennon’s life very few know.

Leaf and Scheinfeld are no strangers to delving into the lives of pop icons. With their production company LSL Productions, the two have done films on some of the biggest names, including Bette Midler, The Bee Gees, and Nat King Cole. Having always prided themselves on collaborating with the artists or their estates, Leaf and Scheinfeld say their first mission in doing this film was to contact Yoko Ono. After spending two months gaining her trust, Ono agreed to collaborate and according to the filmmakers, “really opened up in extraordinary interviews that we’ve never seen before in any of The Beatles’ literature.”

The next step was the research, which entailed all the usual fact-finding methods and interviewing the people who were there like Carl Bernstein, Walter Cronkite, Governor Mario Cuomo, Angela Davis, Ron Kovic, G. Gordon Liddy and Senator George McGovern. Their research also led them to the decision to use Lennon as the film’s narrator. “We have the luxury of Lennon having been one of the most photographed and recorded and filmed men of the 20th century,” says Scheinfeld. “He will come in at particular times commenting on this or that but also using clips from interviews as if it were narration.”

Currently in post, Lionsgate will distribute the film, set for a summer release. Shot on DV by James Mathers and edited by Peter S. Lynch, II, the film is produced by Leaf and Scheinfeld’s LSL Productions. Executive Producers are Lionsgate’s Sandra Stern, Kevin Beggs, Tom Ortenberg and Nick Meyer.

[For more information, please visit their Web site.]

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